To Whom Should We Give Thanks?

Thanksgiving might just be my favorite holiday and fall my favorite time of the year. Family, food and football, it doesn’t get much better than that. But before we take our family, all this great food and an American original past time for granted, we should stop to reflect a little on what giving thanks is all about and why it matters.

Thanksgiving is uniquely American and rooted — like our nation’s history — in faith in God. And if anything is more important than family, food and football, it is giving thanks to the One who makes it all possible, the Giver of life and blessing and all that is good, God.

We all learned in grade school about how the first Thanksgivings were celebrated by the American Pilgrims who were keenly aware that their blessings — like their rights — came from God.

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In winters of unimaginable hardship, they took time to give thanks to their Creator. That Providential Friend who brought them across the stormy, tumultuously dangerous waters of the Atlantic to the eastern seaboard and through the deadly cold winters of their first years on this continent.

Throughout American history, whenever we’ve suffered from natural disasters, storms, floods, drought, famine and war, Americans (as a Christian people) have always paused, not to seek vengeance or to question their faith, but to give thanks to God for the blessings they do have.

Our Forefathers and Founding Fathers didn’t just give thanks when times were good, they gave thanks when times were bad — especially when times were bad. They knew that without gratitude and an acknowledgment in their dependence upon God, the selfishness of expectations would cloud their perspective and lead them into a reliance upon themselves that, by its very nature, could not sustain them.

From our beginnings we acknowledged the hand of God in our affairs.

Upon the Mayflower in 1620, William Bradford, (who for 30 years would be governor of the Plymouth colonies) among many others, signed the first legal document forming a civil government on the American continent. It began; IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. Continuing it state its purpose: “Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith.” and signed, “Anno Domini” (in the year of Our Lord) 1620.

One hundred and sixty seven years later, when things weren’t going so well at the continental convention, Benjamin Franklin rose to ask George Washington, President of the convention,

“…how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.—Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments be Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of the City be requested to officiate in that service.”

Today things are very different. God is being removed from the public square from our political meetings, even from our public vernacular. God is being put in the closet — while all the vile and indecent things that were in the closet are being put on display. The ugly is demanding a place at the table with that which is beautiful, and few seem to be crying STOP. The Founders would not have been so timid.

Basket of Fruit and Pumpkin PieNot only have many Americans forgotten or failed to learned the historic origins of Thanksgiving — a great number no longer pause to give thanks to God for their abundance (even for so much as being born an American), for the blessings in their lives — many (even vast numbers of Christians) are intent on removing God and faith from our national life, from our political dialogue.

Beyond liberals, progressives and Democrats, Hollywood, national media outlets — the financial and political elite seem to be threatened by religious faith, undermining morality with blatant perversion in movies and music and imposing restrictions, like banning Christmas trees from offices or prohibiting employees from saying “Merry Christmas” to clients and customers.

Yet others are intent on denying our religious heritage and whitewash Christianity’s central role in American history and in the lives of those who founded her and who brought us a Republic rooted in the virtues of limited government, restrained by a Constitution of only 4,400 words.

To acknowledge the centrality of God in American history is to acknowledge America’s basis for such an abundance of freedom. From the freedom to worship to the freedom not to worship. From the disposition that “all men are created equal” to the end of slavery.

Too many Americans have forgotten their Creator. They have forgotten that religion and morality are the cornerstone of all our freedoms. This historical and religious amnesia is exactly what is leading us into social decay and disintegration of our country’s families and moral fabric.

From the pilgrims to the Founders — independence was not rooted in self-reliance, but rather an acknowledgement that to be truly free required dependence upon the One who created the universe — and everything in it.

To know anything, to have anything, to understand anything, begins with God. To give thanks to Almighty God is as American as football, turkey and apple pie.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

About the author

David Whitley

David is a deacon at his local church and a perpetual student of religion, politics and American history. Author, speaker, blogger, David lives in Southern California with his wife and their three children. You can follow him on Twitter @cogitarus or online at He's available for speaking engagements upon request.

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